The Complete Guide to a Few Things on Efate, Vanuatu

a. the Rain
the Rain on Efate
does not move.
Biking through it
with surprising bursts of speed
can be very refreshing.


b. the Long Comma Bird
the Long Comma Bird goes
tooooo-whop, tooooo-whop,
punctuating, on cloudy mornings,
The Tree With Hanging Pods.
Together they look out
upon grey pages of bays
from trim slopes.


c. the Tinsel Bird
the call of this bird
a little rope of tinsel
I have observed its shadow
somewhere skiusmi also
bouncing separately
between the side lawn
and the gas-driven shower.
What does it all mean ?


d. the Exactly White Rooster
this enchanting creature
is a Glacier Range Toyota 4WD pickup
with silver ornamentallations
that has just driven away.
It is said that the lingering hooter
has the power
to destabilize
the Gliding Goddess Flower.


e. Kindness
this enviable quality
was preserved here
by some
inconceivable bloody turn of events
concerning Gondwanaland
and the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Halo, says Prime Minister, Yu orate ?
to which reply is Yis, tata.


f. the Tree With Hanging Pods
Lest we forget our wasted days
the Tree With Hanging Pods displays
the lot, aloft like leathern purses
withered by Ancestral Curses.

Once these trees went round and round,
bombing on the golden ground
the Seeds of Immortality,
but, ah, it matters not to me.


g. nice Smiling Dogs
the original Smiling Dog
was knitted by a kindly old Palm Tree
long ago in a time
of universal love
it says here.

Some say
it is a hopelessly corrupted text,
but I, who once was rabid,
hold it to be true,
for one of the dear little fellers
is wagging up the road with me now.


h. the Pigs of Fila
the Pigs of Fila
came out of the Nostril of God
to promote the avoidance of sin
by their bloody extreme Sloth.

they are all distension and tits,
they must be stoned, brothers,
and their extremities affrighted,
that they bear away evil into the bush.

and, as is written, hooked squealy and blood
they will be stuck and ate in the snot greenery,
for the bastard wages of sin, though it be
God’s gift that they smiled in, is death.


i. Song of the Private Buses
why worry
Men in Blacks
carry yumi home
I am 


j. the Walking People of Mele-Maat
they wend a sort of woven thing
mostly they wear shorts and sing

hither and thither up and down
uzhly not and sometimes town

God could make a mat or two
mostly brown with bits of blue


k. the Gliding Goddess Flower
When whisp’ring souls their cold quietus make,
and gentle forth to meet the Big Go Wai,
a Goddess Flower falls, its wee white bell,
sounding, stamen-tongued, its petal knell
unto the lapping earth. Pretty, eh ?
Tonight the darkling branches softly shake.

John Gallas was born in Wellington and brought up in Nelson and St Arnaud. He moved to England in the 1970s but has come back home every year for a winter month or two, to fall about in the mountains and look for gold. He has twelve books published by Carcanet Press (UK). At present, he is working on a one-and-only novel about treachery, violence, pride and violence in the nineteenth-century goldfields (Bush), and a full-length twenty-first-century New Zealand version of Dante (The Little Sublime Comedy).

Gallas comments: ‘These little poems were written over a week’s evenings on a dreamy balcony above the harbour in Port Vila. They are mostly birds and trees: as Efate is. Sometimes a cruise ship came and went like an important cake. But mostly the people went about their smaller business, walking, in buses and pickups, and in the best of humour. It was all a little lesson in people being paradise, and not a beach.’

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